Get That Back-to-School Feeling

Even if you’re not going back to school, autumn is the perfect time to hit refresh. Follow these tips for setting achievable, measurable goals right now.

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Kids across the country have been heading back to school, bringing a collective sigh of relief for moms who managed jam-packed summer schedules. There are also lots of tears for those first-timers: they really do grow up so fast, don’t they?

Even if you’re not returning to class, you can still use this transitional period to mark a new beginning. And, as Mother Nature also makes some major changes, autumn is energetically a better time to clean the slate than that dreaded day of resolutions, January 1st.

Want to get in on that energetic, start-of-school sensation? Follow these 3 easy steps for your fall refresh: 

Step 1: De-Clutter

If someone suggests Marie Kondo’s book or forwards another trendy article on minimalist living to you one more time, your eyes might roll out of your head. We get it. Gretchen Rubin, author of the best-selling book, the Happiness Project, is right, though: Outer order does contribute to inner calm.

Before you bring winter coats out of hibernation, clean out your closet. In addition to ‘Keep’ and ‘Donate’ piles, add an ‘Aspirational’ pile. Put items that you wish you’ve worn there—but haven’t in over a year, or ever.

That means: that dress in the trendy cut but isn’t flattering, those heels that you need painkillers to wear, those old jeans that are too tight…

Separate this pile into two more: ‘Use’ and ‘Sell.’ Give the ‘Use’ pile a due date (30 days is a reasonable window). And, if you really want to keep that sequin cocktail dress that you got on sale a few years ago, you’ll find a way to wear it if you want to keep it.

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For the rest, consider giving them a new home—and making a few extra bucks—by selling them at your local consignment shop, eBay, or Poshmark. Even if your items don’t sell, putting them up for grabs will help you feel less attached to them.

Step 2: Release the Old

To make way for new beginnings, you must let go of what has not been serving you. Using a pen and paper, or even the Notes section of your phone, jot down a list of what you believe has been holding you back recently.

Is it feelings of betrayal and distrust from a past relationship? The club you joined that you dread going to? What about a current friendship, a recent remark that’s taken a toll on your self-esteem, or that you simply don’t like where you live?

After you completed your list, identify the bullet points that you can take action on, such as quitting that time-sapping club. And remember: it’s OK to make yourself a priority. It’s OK to say no. Carrying around burdens not only prevents you from making positive strides in your life, but can also be detrimental to your mind, your mood, and your health. And that’s not good for anyone.

For the things you might not be able to take immediate action on, such as not liking where you live (which means you should move), outline the steps you’d need to take—with a measurable timeline—to cross each item off your list.

As for the more emotional or seemingly immeasurable points, such as a damaging remark that took a toll on your self-esteem, try to incorporate this quick breathing practice into your nightly routine or when the associated feelings come to mind:

BREATHE IN: I am ready to let go.

BREATHE OUT: I release [whatever has been holding you back].

BREATHE IN: New beginnings are on the way.

BREATHE OUT: I let go of [person, place, emotion].

BREATHE IN: I am lighter, yet stronger.

BREATHE OUT: Thank you for coming into my life.

BREATHE IN: I learned so much from [this].

BREATHE OUT: But I don’t need [it] anymore.

BREATHE IN: I am moving forward.

BREATHE OUT: I let go of what is not serving me.

Step 3: Identify your goals

Get a leg-up on your resolutions before the insanity of the holidays start. Again, using pen and paper or the Notes section of your phone, create a list of where you want to be in your life exactly one year from now. Perhaps it’s in a new career, being more patient, or returning from backpacking Europe. These big items are your long-term goals.

On another sheet of paper, put each of long-term goal into its own circle, spread out over the piece of paper. It’s time to make a bubble chart!

Stemming from those long-term goals, identify what you’d need to accomplish before reaching that goal. For just getting back from Europe, maybe the bubbles stemming from your long-term goal would be: buying a plane ticket, planning the trip, getting your passport, and figuring out how to take time off your job.

Then, break down these bubbles further until you reach an actionable, measurable goal that could be daily, weekly, or monthly.

Example:

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In the end, you may have a messy life, half-scribbled map that might spill over to three pages. But, you’ll be left with goals that are so much less overwhelming than, ‘Be more patient.’ (Like, how does one do that?)

Or you can totally adjust your larger goals depending on how realistic your smaller goals seem.

A better you may be in the future—but we’re all doing the best we can right now. And for that, you definitely deserve a gold star.